New plays continue to be a part of the theatre scene in Utah and Idaho, with a number of world premieres happening in the past year—many of which were penned by local writers. Salt Lake City is a center for the development and production of new work. Pieces presented Pioneer Theatre Company’s annual reading series, Play by Play, often go on to PTC’s mainstage; the same can be said of the reading series at Salt Lake Acting Company, Plan-B Theatre Company, PYGmalion Theater Company, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Plan-B Theatre’s mission is to present full seasons of new work by local playwrights. They also strive to support the work of womxn and writers of color, and to provide educational theatre experiences to Utah schools. This year was no exception. Last summer I had the opportunity to adapt Rabindranath Tagore’s The Post Office for Plan-B, a commission in partnership with Gandhi Alliance for Peace, Granite School District, and United Nations Association of Utah. Soon after, Plan-B launched their annual free elementary school tour, featuring MORAG SHEPHERD’s Flora Meets a Bee. Two other world premieres followed: Camille Washington’s psychological thriller Oda Might and JENNY KOKAI’s whimsical comedy Singing to the Brine Shrimp. JENIFER NII’s The Audacity, was set to open March 26, but the run was canceled in the wake of COVID-19. Plan-B quickly adjusted, filming The Audacity; the recorded play streamed for two weeks in lieu of live performances.
Salt Lake Acting Company is another bastion for new plays in the desert, presenting the world premiere of CHARLY EVON SIMPSON’s Form of a Girl Unknown. SLAC’s planned production of Four Women Talking about the Man Under the Sheet by Elaine Jarvik was initially slated for a March 2020 opening but has since been postponed.
The past little while has witnessed the appearance of several new theatre companies on the Utah scene, several of which have found homes in former mall storefronts. An Other Theater Company started 2020 with the premiere of CHELSEA HICKMAN’s Safe. Sackerson Theatre transformed a hall of former dressing rooms into tiny cells for tiny plays. Audience members controlled the order in which the experienced the series of shorts that made up A Brief Waltz in a Little Room: 23 Short Plays about Walter Eyer, a collaboration between Morag Shepherd, MATTHEW IVAN BENNETT and Shawn Francis Sanders. Pinnacle Acting Company also crafted a theatre space out of a former retail store when they premiered Christopher Madsen’s At the Bottom this spring.
Graham Russell, formerly of the duo Air Supply, wrote the music and lyrics for a new musical about the Berlin Wall, A Wall Apart (book by Sam Goldstein and Craig Clyde), which had its world premiere at the Grand Theatre. Max Reuben’s Bank Holiday premiered at the Hive Collaborative just in time for Christmas. My own play Sweetheart Come premiered at PYGmalion Theater Company.
Boise Contemporary Theatre has been home to a number of playwrights and plays. This year they premiered Tammy Lisa/Misery to Meaning, a one-woman show written and performed by Lauren Weedman. They also planned to premiere The Show on the Roof, with music and lyrics by Alex Syiek and book by Tom Ford, in April, but the show was ultimately postponed.